BY SCARLETT SALEM — The arts aren’t the only pursuit drawing people to Hyattsville, this year. The Hyattsville Cyclocross was the kick-off race in the Mid-Atlantic Bicycling Racing Association (MABA) Super 8CX series: an eight race series in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, billed as having “a grassroots vibe with pro-level production.”
“At one point [The Hyattsville Cyclocross] was the most googled term [when searching for Hyattsville] … the other one, I think, was Franklins Brew Master,” said Chris Davidson, Hyattsville resident and co-owner of Arrow Bicycle, the title sponsor for the annual race held in Magruder Park.
Despite looming bad weather on Oct. 4, more than 550 riders turned out for this year’s race, along with spectators and volunteers.
“It’s an interesting thing to see if you’ve never seen one before,” Davidson said. Course races are generally short in length, but consist of multiple laps and terrain can range from forested terrain to cement and flats to steep hills, often with combinations of any of those. Because of the diverse terrain, riders often need to dismantle their bikes at certain points to briefly carry them.
“We couldn’t be a [MABA] Super 8 race if our course was just an oval. It has to meet technical criteria. We started strong, and when we were brought into race series we just continued that formula,” said Pete Van Riper, secretary for race club Route 1 Velo, and assistant to Race Director Jon Agazzi. “We have 40 [club] members and we typically have a very good turnout. Most members are excited about participating in both the event production as well as racing.”
New for this year was the SoHy Cyclo Show hosted by Studio SoHy on Oct. 3. The exhibit featured cycling-themed artwork from over 20 Washington, D.C. metro-area artists and included a beer garden with craft beer provided by Franklin’s Brewery, coffee from Vigilante, and Venezuelan food from ArepaZone. Live music included Dr. Robinson’s Fiasco, Avervge DJ, and Black Masala.
“The idea for the show evolved when an artist asked if we were open to doing a bike inspired exhibit,” said Bronwyn King, one of Sohy’s co-founders. “We, Studio SoHy, felt as though a bike show would be appreciated by the Hyattsville community, many of whom ride bikes, and the greater Washington, D.C. metro area bike community, as well. ”
Arrow Bicycle staff was available to help racers with last minute glitches.
“I am constantly admonishing people, ‘Why didn’t you fix this before the race … It’s a race, you prepare for that,’” said Ryan Lewis, Arrow Bicycle’s lead mechanic.
The idea for the race was a brainstorm by Arrow Bicycle and area cycling club the store sponsors, Route 1 Velo, in 2008.
“There was a group of guys who thought [to host this race in Hyattsville] because of the growing popularity of cyclocross and the proximity to Magruder Park,” explained Chris Militello, fellow co-owner of Arrow Bicycle. Militello and Davidson were already involved with coaching cyclists for the Prince George’s County Special Olympics, so it was a natural extension to align the race as a fundraiser for that event.
This year, race day ended with a Special Olympics parade lap at 4:15 p.m.
“Our [Special Olympics] athletes come down to ride in parade lap which is the last lap. It’s cool because a lot of upper level athletes stick around to ride the lap with them,” Davidson said. He said the Cyclocross is the single largest fundraiser for the Prince George’s County Special Olympics, and some race winners have kicked back their prize earnings to the organization.
“We try to get it to be a family friendly event,” Davidson said. “The city sets up a bounce house, and the playground is right there and the parents can go to the beer garden.” There were also two ‘Lil Belgian’ fun races held on a course separate from the competitive field for children ages 9 and under.
“Cyclocross is an amazing event that brings hundreds of racers, race fans, and families from across Maryland, D.C., and beyond. It’s a great opportunity to showcase Magruder Park, the city and city businesses,” said Hyattsville Recreation and Event Supervisor Cheri Everhart. “… Until you’ve seen it take place, you can’t understand how impressive the race and the riders are.”